There is nothing like sprucing up your home with a fresh, new coat of paint. Before you break out the brushes, rollers, and scraping tools, however, you need to check your home for lead paint first.
Before the 1970s, lead was used in paint to increase its toughness and durability. Over time, scientists found that lead could contaminate the soil and water. Furthermore, physicians noticed that exposure to lead could lead to serious health complications, especially in children. This led the federal government to ban lead in paint in 1978.
The problem is that any home built before 1978 may still have lead paint on the inside or the outside. It can be found on the molding, baseboards, trim, windows, downspouts, doors and walls. Any place that has paint may have lead, and any surfaces that are near chipped paints or paint dust also may have it.
To prevent unnecessary exposure to lead during renovations, a simple DIY lead test can be performed on painted surfaces. These tests are relatively inexpensive, starting at around $8 and working their way up from there. Depending on the brand, lead paint test kits use either the chemical rhodizonate or sodium sulfide. Both chemicals produce a colorful reaction when mixed with lead.
Step by Step
All lead paint tests require a sampling of the painted surface. Start by scraping or chipping a small section of paint in order to get to all the layers down to the original surface. Some kits, like the Klean-Strip kit, ask you to get a sample of the paint, drop it in a small bottle of solution, and wait for a color change. Other tests, like the 3M Lead Check Swab, ask you to rub the chemical solution on the painted surface and wait for a color change. All lead test kits have a color guide. To determine your result, simply compare the color you see to the colors listed on the test kit.
Be cautious when performing the test, however, and use both gloves and a facemask to limit your dust exposure. If you have a positive result, double-check it with another test. Several Consumer Reports have found that both chemicals can produce false positives, depending on the color of the painted surface. Experts suggest using sodium sulfide tests with red and pink paints and rhodizonate tests with darker colored paints. If you have multiple positive test results, contact a professional lead paint abator to have a professional lab test performed. If this test also generates a positive, the abator will be able to help you determine how to safely proceed forward with your project.
DIY lead paint kits are easy to use. Simply scrape, mix, and wait. These lead test kits take minutes to perform, yet in the long run, can have potentially life saving results.